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How to avoid fines while driving in Europe this summer

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Written by: Emma Lunn
02/07/2019
Brits have been advised to brush up on local driving laws before heading off on an overseas road trip.

More than 400,000 cars are expected to pass through the Channel Tunnel in July and August this year – but many drivers risk falling foul of local rules and being pursued by foreign police.

Worryingly, nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of UK drivers believe they should drive on the left in France and Spain, according to pay-by-mile car insurance provider By Miles. In fact, motorists in both countries are legally required to drive on the right.

By law, motorists in France must carry a range of accessories in their car such a breathalyser, spare headlight bulbs and a high-visibility jacket. Failure to carry these items can result in on-the-spot penalties. However, only a fifth of those surveyed realised they need a breathalyser (22 per cent) and just over a third (36 per cent) of drivers knew that they needed to pack a high-vis jacket for the drive.

Unusual driving laws

As well as prepping the right kit list, those driving outside the UK will also need to brush up on some of the EU’s more unusual driving laws to avoid being caught out.

In Spain, drivers can be fined up to €200 for driving shirtless. However, 91 per cent of drivers are unaware of this rule. It’s also illegal to bite you nails while behind the wheel. Other laws drivers are unaware of are no driving in flip-flops in Spain (91 per cent) and no wearing headphones or eating whilst driving in France (75 per cent).

Make sure you keep an eye on how much alcohol you drink. While the limit in the UK and Ireland is 0.8 milligrams per millilitre (mg per ml) – about one pint – in France and Spain it is 0.5 mg per ml, the equivalent of a small beer.

James Blackham, co-founder of By Miles, said, “Holidaymakers planning on driving to Europe this summer must take the time to swot up on local driving laws or risk facing fines. Little-known rules can often catch drivers out. For example, in France you must carry a breathalyser with you at all times, and in Spain if caught driving without a top on you can be fined €200.

“However, every road-tripper can protect themselves by following a few simple steps before setting off. Don’t presume your insurer automatically gives you the same full cover you have at home when you’re driving in Europe. Give them a ring to make sure you have the same level of cover – some drop to third party cover only once outside the UK.”

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